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How Do I Treat Bed Bug Bites?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Most people don’t require significant treatment for bed bug bites, though occasionally anti-itch creams are recommended or treatment might be necessary if bites are scratched and become infected. What is more concerning when people get these bites, which aren’t always identified as arising from bed bugs, is that they may indicate infestation in a home. While the bites, themselves don’t always need much treatment, infestation needs to be considered and people might require the services of an exterminator to remove these bugs from their homes.

People might notice bed bug bites especially after rising from bed in the morning. Sometimes a sequence of bites is found, indicating that a bug or more than one may have been feeding on a person’s blood during the night when these pests are most active. A single bite may or may not indicate presence of bed bugs. Bites can resemble spider or mosquito bites. Repeatedly waking up with bites is more suggestive of bed bugs in the home.

In most cases, people don’t have to do much to alleviate any discomfort associated with bed bug bites. If bites itch, anti-itch creams can be used. Effective ones could contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, or hydrocortisone, a steroid that can reduce swelling.

The most important thing to remember with bed bug bites is to avoid scratching them. This may result in infection because it’s easy to transfer bacteria from under the fingernails into broken skin. If bites turn into open sores, appear to be leaking pus, or are extremely swollen, people should get medical attention; skin infections can easily turn into blood infections, which can be very serious.

A few people have more significant reactions to bed bug bites and are thought to have allergies to elements in the saliva of the bugs. This means instead of having small red bumps, they may develop large bumps that are much more itchy. Should this occur, people may again want to seek out medical help, though general advice might be to take an oral antihistamine to reduce reaction.

The second stage of treating bed bug bites is to locate and remove infestation, and this can be challenging. Larva can collect anywhere in a home, and bugs are very good at hiding. Still, working with a knowledgeable exterminator is recommended to get rid of the bugs. Though ultimately, it isn’t shown that bed bugs are particularly harmful to the longterm health of humans, only annoying and uncomfortable, infestation may proliferate without intervention.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By andee — On Aug 16, 2012

I have seen commercials on TV about having dogs come in and determine if you have bed bugs or not. Apparently these can be hard to treat, and it may take more than one treatment.

Is there much difference in what a flea bite vs a bed bug bite looks like? I know that both of them feed on blood and it sounds like the symptoms are similar.

I either have a flea problem or bed bugs and need to have something done about it. If it is bed bugs, does anyone know how much it costs to have someone come in and get rid of them?

By sunshined — On Aug 16, 2012

@bagley79-- If you just have a bite every once in awhile you probably don't have bed bugs. If this is something that you have an an ongoing basis, you might want to have it checked out.

We ended up getting bed bugs in our house and the only thing I can think of is we brought these back home with us when we were gone on a trip.

We had to have an exterminator come in to completely get rid of the bed bugs. Every day we would notice red, itchy areas on different parts of our body, and realized they were biting us at night while we were asleep. We treated them with an anti-itch cream, but I wanted to get rid of all the bed bugs.

I know this sounds gross, and it was very unsettling, so I wanted to make sure a professional came and got rid of the bed bugs.

By bagley79 — On Aug 15, 2012

When I was a kid I remember a saying about "not letting the bed bugs bite". Come to find out, this can be more of a problem than I realized.

To my knowledge, I have never had a true bed bug bite and hope I never do. While I don't like the idea of any kind of bug or spider in my bed, there are times when I notice a red bite in the morning.

I usually notice this because it starts to itch. I wash my bedding on a regular basis and don't know if I would recognize what a real bed bug bite looks like or not.

By honeybees — On Aug 15, 2012

I have always wondered what a bed bug bite looks like and if the bugs can be seen with the naked eye. Anytime I wake up in the morning and notice a bite on my skin, I wonder if I have bed bugs.

I have never seen any little bugs, and hope they are something other than bed bugs. There is just a small red bump that goes away within a day or so. I don't notice these very often, so really hope it isn't a case of bed bugs.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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